An Inclusive Litany

11/13/01

Marcelee Gralapp, director of the Boulder, Colorado Public Library, refused staff requests to hang an American flag from the library's entrance because "It could compromise our objectivity. We have people of every faith and culture walking into this building, and we want everybody to feel welcome."

At the same time, the Boulder Daily Camera reports that the library was displaying a work of art, as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, called "Hung Out to Dry" that "features colorful ceramic penises hanging from knitted cozies clothes-pinned to a cord strung between a wall and a column. One end of the cord is tied as a noose."

The sculpture was later stolen by an angry local resident named Bob Rowan, who left an anonymous note attributing the theft to "El Dildo Bandito." Since Rowan later turned himself in and told police he intended to return the penises to the artist, Susanne Walker, it was unclear whether police would charge him for a crime if the artist was unwilling to press charges.

Barry Satlow of the American Civil Liberties Union insisted that since he violated Walker's First Amendment rights, Rowan be charged regardless, observing that "this is the way domestic violence has historically been treated, with police declining to arrest or charge unless the victim chose to press charges." While Walker said she was not sure whether she should redisplay the work and thus invite more backlash, Satlow said he hoped the penises would be put back on display. "If not, the self-appointed censor and vigilante, like the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center, will have achieved more than he could on his own."

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